Friday, November 4, 2011

Course info for INSDSG697: Research Methods for Instructional Designers.

'Tis the season to be thinking about which courses you will be registering for spring courses; unless you're graduating this December, in which case let me be the first to congratulate you! :-)  The spring course list is now out, check it out on our discussion board.  When I was a student I always liked to have a syllabus for the courses I was thinking about registering for so that I could get an idea of what the course entailed and therefore figure out what the best combination of courses was for me for that specific semester.  To that end, I wanted to write a little about INSDSG697: Research Methods for Instructional Designers which I will be teaching this coming spring. This is also an opportunity to get the reading materials ahead of time so you could prepare before the start of the semester (if you want to do that sort of thing - did when I was a student, but it's not everyone's cup-o-tea :-)  )

Why research methods?
Our program has a balance of theory and practice. Theory on its own is not that useful in the professional world; on the other hand practice that is not backed up by theory is not useful either because what was once good instructional design ends up becoming cookie cutter ID; this is neither useful to your learners nor your institutions. In our ID courses you do get some theory but you don't often get opportunities to branch out on your own.  Having some background in research methods will not only enable you to problematize training and develop your own research to test things you can't readily explain; it will also enable you to go out there and look at the research literature more often in order to keep improving your instructional design skills and keep your knowledge of learning theory fresh.

What's involved?
Lots of reading and discussing! Throughout the semester we will be both reading a textbook, which is going to be our "how-to" manual for conducting research, and we will be reading and critiquing research articles and position papers.  Through the textbook readings you will be learning the ropes for creating a research proposal and through the article critiques and discussions we will be honing your "BS detector." All things considered there will be about 100 pages of reading materials each week.
The other component is discussions. Each week we will be going over the article critiques that students will be writing and we will be critically discussing the articles.  In the first half of the semester I will be providing you with articles to critique, but as you gather speed with your own research project and you find articles for your literature review we can kill two birds with one stone - so we will be critiquing articles that you have chosen for your project.

How much is statistics involved with this course?
Not much! Statistics is one of those courses that requires a semester of its own, and the truth is that most educational research (that I've come across anyway...) is either qualitative or mixed-method in design so statistics are only one small component. We will be looking at basic statistics, and what they mean so we can do article critiques but you won't have to do the math yourself.

Will I have to complete a research project?
No, that would be like learning how to drive a race car while competing in a NASCAR race. The aim of the semester project will be for you to create a research proposal that can be submitted to a University's Institutional Review Board (IRB). It will contain many things that a full research project has (like a literature review, statements of the problem, and how the experiment will be conducted), but you will neither be running your research experiment, nor will you be gathering and analyzing data. My hope is that you can take your research proposal and either do an independent study in a subsequent semester in order to see your project all the way through, or that you will use this research proposal as the base for the MTO (master's thesis option)*

What is this "HyFlex" thing?
HyFlex is short for Hybrid Flexible. You can read more about it here:
What this means is that if a specific week you can't come to class (or don't want to!) there are ways of completing the material online.  Now this of course doesn't give you carte blanche to just not show up at all during the semester and do stuff online, otherwise it would be an online course. The benefit of HyFlex (at least in my mind) is that it is a Hybrid course (taking the best parts of a face to face course and the best of an online course and putting them together) but it also gives the student the flexibility as to which sessions to complete online. The other nice thing about HyFlex is that it gives online students the opportunity to take a course that is normally offered only face to face. This is my first time running a HyFlex course so it should be interesting! I will be both online and in class!

Who can Register?
The class is on Thursday afternoons and you need to have taken 601, 602 and 604 in order to register.  If you have taken 601 and 602 and would still like to take the course, contact me and we can definitely talk about it!  If you are an online student, since the course is HyFlex that means that there is material online in Blackboard for you as well.  UMass Boston doesn't yet have the HyFlex designation so a course has to be either be online or face to face but since this course is a mix of both categories online students should be able to signup for the course as well if they want  (as a matter of fact I encourage it!) :-) Don't worry, if you don't live near Boston you can think of this course as an online course so you don't have to come in for face to face sessions :-)

Course Syllabus: click here
Course Wiki (still working on it): 

*Disclaimer: I think that our program has a master's thesis option (MTO) for people who want to do that instead of doing the capstone, but you should check with the program director to make sure!
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